2016 in retrospect: amvs (20 – 11)

20. JHaney1214 – 7 Years

Anime: Various
Music: Lukas Graham – “7 Years”

This is one of those videos where I feel like I don’t have to try and defend it, or even really explain why I think it’s good, as it seems to me like it should be impossible for people not to like it, even if they don’t like the song. But I know that people’s opinions don’t work that way so I’ll do my best here, explaining the obvious emotional pull this video has, the down-to-earth and straightforward editing, the meticulous scene selection that drives a superb story. I love obviously narrative videos like this, at least when they’re done this well, and JHaney1214 does an exquisite job, on top of everything else, of choosing the right anime to match with the various periods of life that the song covers. It’s a lovely montage that explores the different stages of life, and while it wasn’t even the best video that did that this year (!!), it never fails to leave me wistful and a little teary-eyed.

19. qwaqa – Красная Селёдка (Red Herring)

Anime: Evangelion 1.11: You Are [Not] Alone // Evangelion 2.0: You Can [Not] Advance // Evangelion 3.0: You Can [Not] Redo
Music: G.V. Sviridoc – “Time, Forward!”

The thought of talking about most of qwaqa’s work generally fills me with a sense of anxiety; his most popular works, PencilHead and PaperHeart, are masterpieces of creative and technical achievement, so much so that both of them are kind of beyond my comfort zone to properly analyze. While I love both videos, the kind of stuff he does in both of them pushes the boundaries of AMVs into territories that make me uneasy, because of my own personal preferences and what I like to get out of AMVs. Thankfully videos like these are few and far between, but I fear the day when technical prowess is deemed more important than any other quality in the realm of AMV editing, and it seems like we get closer to that singularity every day.

Still, qwaqa’s stuff is always impressive, no matter my feelings on its place in the hobby, and I couldn’t help walking away from this video feeling like qwaqa had outdone himself in every way. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Soviet propaganda (actually there’s no “maybe” about it), or for unique and clever concepts like this, but qwaqa’s entry here stands as one of the best uses of this anime I’ve seen in a long time. There are so many cool things going on in this video in every frame that it begs to be re-watched over and over again to catch them all. There’s even a White Stripes reference! But what glues it all together is the outstanding aesthetic — the color manipulation, the film overlay, the text — that is so excellently realized. This feels like a propaganda video through and through; what’s more, it feels like this is the kind of video NERV would put together if Gendo Ikari were actually a communist dictator. Creating worlds from scratch is something that qwaqa does with his videos, but this is like an alternate history fanfiction in AMV form, and it’s truly jaw-dropping.

18. Glitzer – Singular Strike Gentleman

Anime: One Punch Man
Music: Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

One Punch Man understandably received many AMVs to its name this year, but I didn’t watch most of them — they all seemed like they’d be in the same camp of mindless, stupid action and thus not really my cup of tea. The fact that I was asked to beta test this and that this ended up being a finalist at NDK meant that I was bound to see it, even if I never bothered to seek it out — and I’m glad I did, because I doubt I’ll see many other OPM videos that make me smile the same way this one does. It’s a fun video, largely because of the song choice — Queen videos usually fall into this upbeat/light humor camp, so while not unexpected it’s done as well as any of them, and better than most. There’s lots of shrewd lyric sync that, while it doesn’t impart any kind of story or concept, gives the video a delightful cohesion that should keep any viewer interested, if not downright glued to the screen. Equally important is the occasional — but always perfectly-placed — internal sync, which keeps the video moving at a smooth and comfortable pace. And the video’s title is really just the icing on the cake…a simple joke that makes it obvious from the get-go what I’m getting myself into.

I’m usually fairly critical of videos like this — the kind that aim for mass appeal with song and video sources this immediately likable, but every so often it works without feeling generic or trite, and Glitzer gets a pass on this one for editing something so fricking enjoyable.

17. AndysVideos – Satellite Towns.

Anime: Various
Music: Doves – “Black and White Town”

For many of you, this is going to be an odd choice — it’s got poor audio quality, poor video quality a lot of the time (by the way, don’t download this from the .org, the visual quality is atrocious and YouTube is actually better), and when it comes down to it, it’s just a lot of opening/ending scenes, as well as some of the most popular AMV-friendly scenes from the anime it uses. Some people may call this a low-effort video, but for me there is something incredibly charming about it. The super-desaturated color scheme combined with the often-chaotic scene choices (which is in fact helped by the low quality) lends this video a really gritty, claustrophobic look and feel that I haven’t really encountered in other videos, that I can recall. It has this excellent urban finish to it, this feeling of wanting to escape the grimy and mundane into something more extraordinary and meaningful, which is an outlook I identify with in a very personal way. This may be something that simply doesn’t translate to other viewers, so I can understand if you’d walk away from this one feeling nothing for it, but for me this was, kind of like Abogado’s Diamonds, another one of those completely surprising, unexpected videos from 2016 that I feel is way better than most people will likely give it credit for.

16. antaresheart07 – Petaloso

Anime: Noragami // Noragami Aragoto
Music: New Politics – “Harlem”

We didn’t get the super upbeat, boisterous PieandBeer AMVs like Something Fishy!, Oneiro, or Minimum Wage from last year, but in their place we did get Petaloso, so all is forgiven. The editing in this video is top-speed, frenetic but never confusing, making use of equal parts internal and external sync. The video doesn’t really let up — there’s visual motion from beginning to end, and antaresheart07 manages it with all the talent of someone who knows exactly what she wants out of each and every frame. It’s a stupidly fun video, and while she tends to shirk the lyric sync in favor of completely random scene selection, it ends up not mattering much — this is one of those videos that exists to get you engaged in other, more primal means than trying to tell a story. Get on the floor, move your body, get kicked in the face and fly into a wall, that kind of engagement. AMVs like this are plentiful, but many of them fail in one way or another — often they take the process too seriously and end up feeling forced or not energetic enough, but Petaloso does things juuuuust right, managing to hit the moving target and scoring big.

15. SachaValentine – “Pursuit of Happiness”

Anime: Various
Music: David Guetta – “Just One Last Time”

(No YouTube link, sadly, due to a copyright claim on the music track.)

You may not buy into this concept in writing — a drawing of Pikachu coming to life and escaping into the digital world to play with other Pokemon while the girl who drew him gets depressed that he’s gone — but holy cow does it work as an AMV. It’s a silly idea, yes, but the amount of work that went into making this concept come to life in a convincing way is astounding — if you’re not an editor, you may not realize how much of a pain certain scenes would have been to composite. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of stuff I like to see in crossover videos like this, rather than the more “Umika-type” videos that use all sorts of crummy-looking color tone adjustment overlays and particles and light leaks.

This is a very engaging video — SachaValentine uses her (his?) technical abilities to tell a solid story, cheesy as it is. There are some really cool moments throughout the video — newly created settings, clever compositing choices, fun crossover moments — that bring this video to life in a way that videos of this type rarely do for me. I’m usually conscious of when anime are being mixed together, and often I find that it’s completely unnecessary, other than to show off the technical abilities of the editor. Pursuit of Happiness, on the other hand, is a story that couldn’t have existed convincingly in any other way, and that such care went into creating it and making it so easy to buy into makes it one of my favorite crossover videos, and certainly one of the most memorable videos of this last year.

14. falconmtg – Delusionist

Anime: Various
Music: Halsey – “Gasoline”

Speaking of crossover videos, enter Delusionist. This is probably more accurately considered a Madoka Magica video, as that’s the source where most of this video resides, but whatever. As I mentioned in my thoughts on Stinger yesterday, Madoka videos are still good fuel for creativity in new projects, although they have really lost their luster as it’s become such an overused source; it’s to falconmtg’s credit, then, that he not only made something fresh with this source, but did so in a way that plays into the latent psychological undertones that permeate the setting and atmosphere of Madoka.

This is a dark video, with a clear story (at least, it was to me, although the two people I showed it to didn’t seem to get it, so your mileage may vary) profiling Homura, and while there are countless Homura profile videos floating around out there, most of them confine themselves to a story summary or try to ship her with Madoka. Delusionist does something different here, painting her as a mental patient being tested on with drugs. It’s surreal and unsettling in all the best ways, with lurid imagery and a definite sense of descending into a state of madness. It succeeds on all levels, both as a technical exercise (although nothing on the scale of Pursuit of Happiness, above) as well as a conceptual one, and although we were (thankfully) treated to far fewer Madoka videos this year than in the past, it was a welcome addition to this year’s bounty.

13. Moony Moonpie – Lessons I’ve Learned

Anime: The Boy and the Beast
Music: One Republic – “Counting Stars”

I need to explain something real quick here — this video and the next two are all videos I really wanted to be in my Top 10…trying to figure out how to order my list from this point on was an utter nightmare, and for all intents and purposes you can consider videos #13 – #10 essentially tied, if you like, because trying to say I like any one of these better than the other is really difficult for me to do, as the order would probably change depending on the day you asked me. Unfortunately, ranked lists don’t really work in a way that would let me tie a bunch of videos, and it’d feel like a cop-out if I made an exception, so I had to order these somehow.

Hopefully it’ll speak volumes about the videos in my Top 10, but as for this video, it’s just so wonderfully realized that I’m having some difficulty here trying to think of things to add. I’ve seen a couple videos that use this song (which I actually really don’t like), but none of them even come close to this one in terms of making a meaningful song/anime connection. I haven’t seen The Boy and the Beast, but this video pretty much summarizes the entire movie really clearly, so much so that I feel like I wouldn’t miss much by not seeing it (although I still want to). The scene selection manages to follow the lyrics at exactly the right distance — locating the underlying meaning in some of the more literal passages (“No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars”) and finding a way to represent it that doesn’t come across as corny or lazy.

This is a high-energy video, although it often forgoes tight sync for story progression, but this never works against it — it locks on to the mood of the song and uses that as its propellant. I can’t fault the video for anything, and I really don’t want to. It’s such a likable video in every regard, and deserves way more recognition than it got. Sometimes I wish I had more visibility in the AMV community, not to promote my own work but so I could get videos like this a wider audience. For lack of that, I’ll do what I can here, and hopefully somehow this video reaches to the ends of the Internet and gets the exposure and love it rightly deserves.

12. Radical_Yue – Nan Desu Kan 2016 AMV Contest Intro

Anime: Various
Music: Trista & Braken – “Far Away”

I was going to explain what this video is, but then I realized I was literally just re-wording the AMV’s title so I won’t patronize you. This video was played before all the contest videos at NDK, and I had thought that a part of the reason I enjoyed this one so much was remembering the experience of seeing it for the first time — sitting in a room with something like 3,000 people (I believe?) and hearing their ecstatic reactions to their favorite anime as they appeared onscreen…there’s just something special about that, you know?

But after I got home from the contest and remembered to re-watch this later, I was surprised to find that I liked it just as much, if not more, than I did when I had seen it in its proper setting. The theme at NDK 2016 was “20 years of anime”, and so this video is basically just an assortment of some of the great anime from the past 20 years. And yes, that’s all it is — but holy crap man, the song, the editing, the sentiment! It all just overflows into a feels trip unlike almost any I saw this year, celebrating anime in a way that makes me not just happy but proud to be a fan. It makes me want to shout and scream and lose myself in the excitement that anime and AMVs can generate. Even though there are many other videos like this, the context of this one, I think, makes a huge difference in how I process it.

But put all that aside and it’s still a step above, with editing tricks that tie scenes together in super neat ways, often through matching the motion of one scene to the next, or the really clever way Yue translates from fullscreen to widescreen (you may not even notice it the first time around!). The pacing and the flow is all so on-point — I love this video so much. I don’t care what you say Yue, because I know you’re reading this — you made one of the best videos of the year, please do it again in 2017.

11. hamstar138 – Fast Forward

Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time // Wolf Children
Music: One Direction – “Story of My Life”

Let me be brutally frank here: This video had literally nothing — and maybe less — going for it when I first skimmed the video information before downloading it. Of all the overused sources that I have lost all enthusiasm for over the years, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is probably in my top 5. And that’s to say nothing of the song, which I couldn’t be more ambivalent about if I tried. This was a recipe for about as generic and throwaway a video as I could imagine, and I went into it with a healthy dose of skepticism and a much unhealthier dose of cynicism.

I came out the other end transformed. This is a video that takes two sources that are incredibly stale in the AMV world and crafts a link between them, making a new story from nothing that is believable and touching in the most pleasantly surprising ways. What’s more, hamstar’s narrative here manages to take key elements from both movies — elements that essentially make these movies what they are — and incorporate them in intelligent ways into her finished product. This isn’t a video that destroys the original works’ intent or takes anything out of context in the name of making something completely new; instead it pays tender homage to both GWLTT and Wolf Children while at the same time telling a powerful, new story originating in hamstar’s imagination.

This video is especially cool to me because hamstar138 is an editor I’ve been keeping tabs on for a while now; until this year she hadn’t really released anything that stuck with me, but over the last couple years I’ve noticed marginal improvement with each release, seeing her potential increase each time, until this last year when she released two phenomenal videos (the other being Pokeversary which is not represented on this list). Getting to experience an editor’s journey firsthand, especially when it culminates in a video like Fast Forward, makes all the slower parts worth it, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

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2016 in retrospect: amvs (30 – 21)

Okay, now that all that preliminary stuff is out of the way, we can get to the actual, finalized list of my 30 favorite videos from 2016. I’ve been super excited about writing this for several months now, so I really hope you enjoy and watch as many of these videos as you can, if you haven’t seen them already. It is my honest opinion that the videos I’m about to list are the best videos this past year had to offer, certainly of what I’ve seen, if not beyond that. I welcome discussion on this. I welcome competing viewpoints, so long as it’s kept in mind that this is all highly subjective territory.

A few things worth noting before we embark: First, I’m generally not impressed by super-technical videos, unless the effects work has a conceptual purpose. As such, there are very few really effects-y videos on this list. I also tend to dislike really obviously fan-pandering-type videos (though there are exceptions), so between these two categories I’ll just head off a few videos that were pretty big this year that you won’t find within miles of this list: Sans Titre by Cmoididi, Edera by Elerye, Weeaboo Peekaboo by Shin-AMV, or Deadpunch by Rider4Z. I didn’t like any of these videos really, and while I could go into great detail on that, I figure I might get carried away in a super negative sense so I’ll just leave it at that.

Second, I’ve found in the past that I tend to deride multi-anime AMVs quite a bit, and yet on this list there are quite a few of them, so maybe I don’t dislike them the way I thought I did. Although, in this case, most of them are conceptually sound so that may make all the difference, or I could just be someone who contradicts myself for no good reason. I don’t know.

Finally, this list is going to get suuuuper drama-heavy in its last third. So, you know, just be prepared for that.

In an amazing coincidence (and I’m actually serious here, I didn’t plan it this way) there are no videos in this Top 30 that use the same anime twice, with the exception of some of the multi-anime videos. So that’s pretty cool, and just goes to show the diversity we get to enjoy with our AMVs. Despite watching many videos that used the same sources over and over again (Your Lie In April, Tamako Love Story, ERASED, and Ore Monogatari were all huge this year), I somehow managed to end up with a varied spread of videos that didn’t overlap. Hopefully that’ll increase your enjoyment of these videos, if nothing else!

Oh, and at the end of the final post, in addition to posting the full list of videos that made it into consideration to be ranked, I will also post a short recognition of my Editor of the Year, a new thing I’m going to try out this year. I had wanted to do it last year but decided against it for reasons I can’t remember. Let’s see how it goes.

Okay, that was way longer than I wanted it to be. Are you used to that yet? Let’s get to the videos!

30. exkcal – I Don’t Have To See You Right Now

Anime: Your Lie in April
Music: Local Natives – “Mt. Washington”

I’ve come to have a really love/hate relationship with YLIA videos, because I really enjoyed the anime, but so many of the videos made using it are just really dull, predictable, uninspired schlop that add little or nothing to the fray, so when exkcal made this one, I was skeptical. Like many others, its fuel is the story’s tragedy, and it uses a lot of the same scenes we’ve probably all gotten sick of throughout the last two years. But it’s just, well, better than most others, and I think a large part of that can be attributed to the audio choice — a lo-fi indie rock song which acts as a direct contrast to not only the beautiful, refined animation, but the types of videos in whose company it inevitably finds itself. So many sad YLIA videos tend to use these upbeat-but-downtrodden pop songs, and also try to be flashy and cutting edge with their editing approach. I Don’t Have To See You Right Now is instead an understated, soft, and quiet video, and when it comes down to it I think its humble approach is what shuttles it so far above the crowd.

29. neko kitkat – We Live

Anime: Pokemon (various)
Music: One Republic – “I Lived”

This year was a huge year for Pokemon — on top of the phenomenon that was Pokemon Go, and the release of Pokemon Sun/Moon, 2016 marked the franchise’s 20-year anniversary, and as such it’s fitting that there were multiple AMVs made to mark the occasion (the other good one I saw would be hamstar138’s Pokeversary). But for my money, I prefer neko kitkat’s video — it taps into my weakness for nostalgia in a unique way, by using all manner of sources to celebrate one of the most prominent examples of Japanese culture invading American homes that has ever existed. It sources the games (from multiple generations and platforms), the various series, and the commercials that have been on the air during Pokemon’s existence. I never got too deep into Pokemon myself, but I distinctly remember seeing several of the commercials used in this video as a kid, and it’s an effective trick for making a really cool homage to this particular craze.

More than that though, I think this video just works as an expression of gratitude towards the franchise, and I think that even if you’ve never been “in” on Pokemon like many other die-hards have, most people should be able to still appreciate this. It may not mean anything to you personally, but like any video or tribute that does its job well, it will make you wish you had been in on the ground floor.

28. Cecco – Liberation

Anime: Beyond The Boundary: I’ll Be Here
Music: Evvy – “Tidal Wave (Sound Remedy Remix)”

Before this year I’d seen exactly one good Beyond The Boundary video (msteapot’s I See Fire), and even that one had one or two notable flaws that keep me from really falling in love with it. Sadly, so does this one (that stupid text smack in the middle), but it succeeds in the same way msteapot’s does: It tells a really strong, pathos-riddled story without succumbing to the mindless action that seems to define most videos that use this source, and I just can’t help but wonder why I don’t see more videos that do this, because Beyond the Boundary seems to lend itself to this dramatic style more than any other. Cecco’s editing in this video is superb, using simple effects that carry meaning, and just killing it with the beat sync right as the song builds to its climax. It feels like it ends too soon, but it’s still wholly satisfying, not leaving us with anything unsaid. In the most complimentary way, I just really wish there was more to say.

27. Copycat_Revolver – F-Bomb

Anime: Is This A Zombie? // Is This A Zombie? Of The Dead
Music: Jon Lajoie – “Fuck Everything”

I’ll probably make a point of saying this every year, but comedy videos just aren’t usually my thing — they tend to be on the weeb-pandering side, or they depend on highly contextual knowledge to fully “get”, meaning that unless I’m already in on the joke, it’ll go right past me. For that reason, usually only a few (at most) comedy videos end up being any of my favorites from a given year, but those that do are usually good for more than just one or two viewings before they start to get old.

F-Bomb is a hilarious video; I’ve watched it a number of times now and still find it funny. What’s more, every time I watch it I pick up on some other little detail that adds a smidgen more humor to the lyric sync. Lots of clever, subtle jokes, some of which would indeed go over non-editors’ heads, pepper the video and give it a surprising amount of re-watch value. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about F-Bomb is that almost every single lyrical joke, no matter how challenging, has a matching visual gag — all from a single anime series. This is by far the video’s biggest asset, as so many comedy videos which rely on a lot of lyric sync end up having to use multiple animes to keep the jokes going, and this almost always dilutes the comedy element for me. But F-Bomb doesn’t have to stoop to this, and it ends up being one of the funniest videos of the year as a result.

26. Xophilarus – Mounting Dread

Anime: Wolf’s Rain
Music: Disturbed – “Sound of Silence”

This apparently became a popular song for AMVs this year, as there were quite a few AMVs made with it (searching “disturbed sound of silence amv” on YouTube yields pages of videos), and since I’m not a masochist I didn’t see more than one other, but I still feel pretty comfortable calling this one the best of them all, mainly because I can’t see another source working quite this well. It’s an incredibly melodramatic video, in all the best, most theatrical ways; it’s dark and brooding and violent, and uses really simple editing techniques to tell its story. I haven’t seen Wolf’s Rain but I walked away from this video feeling like I had; it reminded me of the first time I watched aerialesque’s video Lost Paradise, another favorite Wolf’s Rain video of mine. There were better heavy drama videos this year but even so, Mounting Dread is one that’ll be on my playlist for a long time.

25. DNubsPro – The One To Understand Me

Anime: Kids on the Slope
Music: fun. – “Be Calm”

I’ve said it before about some of my own work, am I’m sure I’ll say it again the next time I encounter a video like this and feel the need to write about it, but the best videos tend to be those that don’t take much conceptual thought on the part of the editor; when you come across a song and anime that make so much intrinsic sense that you feel it your duty as an editor to smash them together if it hasn’t been done already. Such is the case with DNubsPro’s The One To Understand Me — this song works so unbelievably well with this anime, and his editing keeps pace with the song’s tempo and mood changes impeccably. Even the little things, like the horns in the song and the dominant percussion feed into the scene selection and back out in fluent ways, creating this beautiful ensemble of A/V harmony. It really is probably the best Kids on the Slope video from a holistic standpoint; while there are a couple I’d say I like better personally, this one does characterization and plot summary probably better than the others, and really, is just more fun. For a total, out-of-the-blue video that I just stumbled across, this one comes highly recommended.

24. Copycat_Revolver – Stinger

Anime: Various
Music: Awolnation – “Burn It Down”

You may be entirely over [whatever]-monogatari videos at this point in time, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit. Even though they tend to go in different directions stylistically, and as pretty as the animation is, the source in the AMV world is a lot like Madoka — still creatively valid, but lacking in any kind of wow-factor given just how much we’ve all seen these scenes used before in countless other videos. If that does, in fact, describe you, I’d urge you to still give Stinger a shot, as this probably ranks as one of the flat-out coolest videos I saw this year. It utilizes tons of internal sync and plenty of sly humor, which is Copycat’s trademark with this kind of work. It’s upbeat and fun and has a bad side; it tears up the place and you still say “Thank you sir, may I have another?” It’s downright enjoyable from beginning to end, and demonstrates once more just how utterly in control of his tools Copycat_Revolver is. I’m always looking forward to his next release, because I know that I’m guaranteed a good time, and Stinger was this year’s proof that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

23. Farm AMV – Koku’s Rage

Anime: Dragon Ball (various)
Music: Various

Dragon Ball has always had kind of an unfortunate place in AMV culture; as much as people may like the various series or recognize their importance in their own development as anime fans, it’s often derided as a source for AMVs. Linkin Park has a similar history, and when the two are put together it has, over years, become a meme in itself — if you’ve ever heard the term “Linkin Ball Z”, these types of videos are what that’s referring to. While it’s easy to see why the two were once coupled all the time, the mockery has continued even though such videos are rarely being made seriously anymore.

What makes Koku’s Rage so great is that it mocks both the videos that use these sources as well as the deriding attitude surrounding them, while at the same time making fun of the recent Dragon Ball Super, a series whose animation was panned for good reason. I’ve never personally been a fan of any of the animation in any Dragon Ball series, but past series undeniably looked better, and so the overriding joke in this video — pairing the flat, lifeless Dragon Ball Super scenes with the flaccid cover of “Crawling” — is simply hysterical. The fact that this video is also commenting on the “Linkin Ball Z” mentality is just a bonus, but editors should get an additional kick out of the meta-ness of that commentary as well. (There’s also the overly-effectsy break in the middle, bad lyric text and all, as yet another jab at a certain kind of editing style that has become popular in recent years).

Best of all, this video does not linger any longer than it has to — it gets the jokes out there, and then stops before running them into the ground, a feat that, sadly, many other comedy editors could stand to learn from. It’s a gem of a comedy video, the kind we see all to little of. More editors could stand to be this self-aware, and I applaud Farm for making one of the most untentionally deep and insightful videos of the past 12 months…and also one of the funniest.

22. Joo – They Hit Without Warning

Anime: Shadow of the Colossus
Music: Epic Score – “They Attacked Without Warning”

Since this is a Japanese game I’m considering it an AMV, so cool your jets if you’re having a reation of “But this isn’t anime!” I actually agonized over this more than you might think, but I decided to include it because it’s my blog and I just really like this video, okay? Hopefully it’s not hard to see why — I don’t know if Joo captured all this footage himself or if he found recordings of it online from someone else; no matter, it’s an amazingly epic video that shows off why this is one of the most loved titles from the PS2 era, and for many people, before or since. I have yet to play Shadow of the Colossus, but if this video is any indication, I should drop what I’m doing right now and

Okay, I got the remake for PS3 but I haven’t played it yet, that’s a first step though, right? In any case, this video just kills it in all the important ways — storytelling, internal sync, adrenaline-pumping cuts on all the right beats. In many ways this video reminds me of Pic4’s video from last year, Nomura; in the same way, this video just keeps getting better as it progresses, every cut pushing you further and further into its world until you’re completely overcome by the thunderous energy it’s riding on. This is goosebump-inducing, heart-stopping action at its finest, and while I’m not usually one to enjoy action videos this much, I’m happy to dive head first into They Hit Without Warning again and again.

21. Abogado – Diamonds

Anime: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (+ others)
Music: Gangstagrass – “Pressure”

Often — I’d actually say, more often than not — I go into watching AMVs not knowing what to expect at all. Especially from completely unknown editors like this, it’s always a craps shoot as to whether I’m going to uncover something totally awesome or something utterly forgettable. So when I find something like this video, it often will justify the crummy stuff I have to sift through to find it. Discovering these completely unknown gems brings me at least as much joy as watching through videos that I may like better, but are also much better-known. In the end, I certainly treasure these finds way more.

Diamonds is a very stylish video, in the sense that it uses some really cool effects to create a sophisticated atmosphere. The opening of the video draws you in with the flashy background and black-and-white color palette, but even when things settle down into more familiar, hard-cuts-and-black-flashes territory for the verses, it still feels like it’s in total control of its aesthetic, resisting the urge to become pretentious or exclusive in its presentation. Oh, and that instrumental bit in the middle? Yeah, that was one of my absolute favorite bits of editing I saw all year.

Perhaps best of all, this is a Studio Ghibli-sourced video that expressly doesn’t use sentiment as its motive force, feeling much more practical in its approach by having the viewer just enjoy the ride. While I love Ghibli AMVs, this video’s take on how to engage the viewer is refreshing, and one of its biggest selling points. I love it when things surprise me this much in such a positive way, and this aptly-named example should hopefully make it clear why I seek out and collect these kinds of AMVs the way I do.

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2016 in retrospect: amvs (honorable mentions)

We’ve arrived, once again, at the end of another year, and it’s time to take a look back and review what it had to offer in terms of AMVs. I will say this right off the bat — because of the changes that took place in my life over the last 12 months, watching AMVs became de-prioritized somewhat, and I did not watch them consistently throughout the year. I would go days, weeks even, without firing up a single one, old or new. As such, my view of the quality this year may be somewhat skewed. The way I see it, 2016 wasn’t necessarily great for AMVs — or, at least, it felt like 2015 might’ve been better. Unlike last year, where I had thought basically the same thing until around September/October when the floodgates opened and we were blessed with numerous quality releases, that didn’t really happen this year. I don’t know why, and I won’t begin to speculate, but at times it was disappointing.

That’s kind of a rough way to start out this list, and I don’t want to be too negative, because — and let me be perfectly clear here — there were many excellent videos released this year that I am beyond psyched to talk about, and everything on this list is, in my very humble opinion, definitely worth watching. The Top 10 in this list are absolutely top-notch, bar none (they wouldn’t be there otherwise), and one thing I don’t want to do is do any of these editors a disservice by implying that their work is somehow lesser because 2016’s output was overall less impressive than I was hoping. Far from it. These videos all stand on their own merits, regardless of where they land in the rankings, and should be viewed as such.

Because I wanted to give everything a fair shake, around the beginning of December I decided to go back and download as many videos as I could that I may have missed throughout the year — this involved filtering a video search on the .org to only display videos released in 2016, and then going through page by page and downloading anything that looked the least bit interesting to me (and several that didn’t). I also browsed through amvnews.ru, Japan Expo’s and NDK’s contest listings, and the #amv-sharing channel in the AMVCentral Discord server to find anything I may have missed. I guarantee I didn’t catch everything, but I like to think I was able to find a whole bunch of stuff that I would have missed otherwise, much of it worth talking about.

To give some transparency to the process, I’ll just briefly explain how I came up with this list. It was basically identical to the way I did it last year — throughout the year, whenever I would watch an AMV I hadn’t seen before, I would enter it into my Genome Project spreadsheet. When I was ready to compile this list, I filtered the list of 203 videos watched from 2016 down to only videos that I had rated 7.5 or above. This gave me a final list of some 71 videos to choose from, and from there I re-watched all the videos on that list and ranked them as best I could from 1 – 30.

We’ll start out the countdown with an unranked list of Honorable Mentions. These are videos that didn’t quite make the cut for being on my Top 30, but I still want to talk about for whatever reason. As I did last year, I will remind everyone that these following 10 11 videos are not necessarily the videos I would rank from 31 – 40 41 — these are simply videos that are still good or noteworthy in some way that I want to shed light on, regardless of where they’d end up if I decided to attach a rank to them. I can already guarantee you that there are other videos that I’m not mentioning here that I may like better than some or all of these videos, but I just don’t have much to say about those. At the end of the last post in this series, I will provide a list of all videos that made it into consideration so you can look up any other videos yourself that may not have been included here, if you find yourself so inclined. (If you’re wondering why this part is 11 videos and not 10…thank PieandBeer.) (This will make more sense later.)

Finally, I just want to stress something — the great thing about having my own blog is that I’m not answerable to anyone else. This list is mine and mine alone, it is be no means definitive, or official, or anything. You will almost certainly disagree with me on many, if not most, if not all points in the following posts. That’s fine! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave comments as we go. The fact of the matter is that these were my favorite videos from 2016, and I’m excited to share them with you, whatever you may think about them yourself.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we go through and look at some of the best videos from the past 12 months!

PYSH AMVs – On Our Way

Anime: Barakamon
Music: Radical Face – “We’re On Our Way”

Let’s just get the bad out of the way first — this is a messy video in many respects, and the first 20ish seconds may deplete your hopes that anything good could come of this. Horrible, unnecessary text and ugly font choices will likely put a bad taste in your mouth immediately. Please trust me when I say to fight through it — fight through the bad stock transitions, the occasional garish effect work, the comparatively poor quality, because once PYSH gets that out of his system, mostly in the first half of the video, this thing just opens up to be one of the most heartfelt Barakamon videos on the Internet. There are some absolutely spot-on scene choices, and through everything the video maintains a perfect mood, reflecting the simple happiness that’s at the heart of the anime itself — joy springs from the people you love, and it drives you to be a better person. Few videos in 2016 had me cheering for them like this one did — it’s a scrappy, underdog video rife with technical flaws. But through it you can see an editor who is trying his best to leave behind a fitting homage to a great anime, and in that sense, he absolutely succeeds.

Tigrin – Never Quite Enough

Anime: Your Lie in April
Music: Alanis Morissette – “Perfect (Acoustic)”

As I said to start off my discussion of last year’s #1 video, 2015 seemed to be the year of Your Lie In April videos, but I definitely feel like I watched more this year than last. And it was a drag, mostly, because given that Hirou Keimou had basically perfected the source in what has become one of my all-time favorite AMVs, anyone else using the source was going to be at an immediate disadvantage. I walked away from 2016’s YLIA videos disappointed, in almost every case, save a few.

This was one of those that managed to do the source justice, even if it wasn’t quite in the way that I’m Alive! did. I mean, let’s be honest — the majority of YLIA videos are going to focus on the love story that permeates the series, and who can really fault people for doing that? It’s easy and it guarantees views, and I don’t think it’s an inherently bad thing. Still, when Tigrin released Never Quite Enough, I was struck by how obvious this concept seemed, and how few people seem to have really tried to tackle it. This is a video that focuses on the relationship between Kousei and his mother, specifically in the way he feels pressured to be perfect and how it affects him. Given that this is such a huge part of Kousei’s character, you’d think there would be more AMVs out there that dial in on this, but Tigrin’s so far is the only one I’ve seen do it, or at least do it this well.

It’s not my favorite video by a long shot — mainly, I just can’t stand the song. But the concept is solid and it’s really conveyed well. The editing doesn’t stand out, but it doesn’t really try to, so it’s difficult to fault it there. I enjoyed watching this one, even if it wasn’t a video I came back to again and again over the year. Moreover, it goes to show that even super played-out sources can have life breathed back in to them, often because a good conceptual framework is hiding in plain sight, and people just never bother to look.

purplepolecat – Disco Limbo

Anime: Death Billiards // Death Parade
Music: Lady Gaga – “Disco Heaven”

…And the award for the video that takes its source material most out of context goes to Disco Heaven, and while I usually get peeved when I see this sort of thing, purplepolecat’s execution here is just so absurdly on-point that I can’t really criticize; frankly, I’m having a hard time wondering what led him to choose this source for this song to begin with, not to mention managing to find enough scenes to make it actually work. This is a fun video that has nothing to do with the anime it uses, and yet it manages to feel like a proper dance video, or at least a really close facsimile of one. Yes, the energy is lacking some of the time, and yes, the scenes and facial expressions are often too grim to be really convinced that Death Parade is anything but a serious, heavy anime most of the time, but props where they’re due — I never in my wildest dreams would have paired this song with this anime, and yet it works way better than I ever could have hoped.

daily chill – i doubt my love

Anime: Beyond the Boundary
Music: Seekae – “Test & Recognize”

Analyzing this video is difficult to do without taking the context of the YouTube channel itself into account; it appears to be that of a teenage kid from Lithuania, and the majority of his videos are just music playing over still frames, with an occasional AMV uploaded here and there. I haven’t watched most of them, although relatively recently he uploaded an AMV that could be considered a suicide note; happily it appears that he never followed through as he’s uploaded tons of stuff since then. This video, then, seems to be something deeply personal, that I probably will never be able to completely understand or appreciate.

Still, I think this video is worth watching; over the last year or so, this VCR effect has become super trendy, thanks in part I think to an AVIsynth script that creates it automatically. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been used in any really interesting ways yet; editors tend to just slap this on a video and call it a day (for instance, in this MEP), and even though it’s a cool effect, it doesn’t do a whole lot for any of these videos. It’s also been somewhat frustrating to see this effect become so popular, as it’s an effect I’ve been wanting to replicate myself towards a conceptual end. Now that it’s being plastered over everything for no reason, my desire to actually pursue that idea has become a bit diluted.

Despite the fact that i doubt my love doesn’t use this effect in a way that I keep hoping to see, it’s used better here than in any other video I’ve seen so far. The visual distortion and color manipulation used to age the footage works surprisingly well, especially given how recent the source material is, and the resulting video is a depressing affair of loss and grief. daily chill also decided to make use of text effects here and there throughout the video, and the result is mixed — they don’t look bad, exactly, and the 8-bit typeface was probably the best choice he could have made, but they sometimes feel superfluous (although the kanji/hiragana subtitles used near the end were a nice touch). No matter, though — this video was not made for me, even if I happen to have the benefit of being able to watch it. Whatever prompted this video’s creation, I will never know, but few videos I watched this year felt more cathartic than i doubt my love.

AMV Strat – Oasis

Anime: Various
Music: Alle Farben – “She Moves (feat. Graham Candy)”

We don’t often get videos like this — videos that are technically impressive without being obvious about it, videos that recognize the fine line between “too much” and “not enough” when it comes to effects work like what we see in here, and manage to toe it perfectly. In fact, a lot of this effect work is done so well that you may not be able to tell — most of the backgrounds were created by Strat himself, there’s quite a bit of masking throughout the video’s three-minute run, and the storybook filter that becomes prominent at the end doesn’t overstay its welcome, and serves its conceptual purpose without fanfare. It’s all integrated so well and in such rare moderation that I had to watch it a few times before I felt like I caught all the little touches that bring this video to such vivid life.

On top of that it’s such a fun, creative piece, telling the story of a girl who is wandering, looking for her perfect place in the world. It could be literal or it could be allegorical, depending on how deep you want to go with it, but either way it’s a beautiful concept, beautifully realized.

UnluckyArtist – Screaming Artist

Anime: Nichijou
Music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Art Star”

Every Nichijou video I see convinces me that I should be watching it like, right now, but for some reason I keep putting it off and deciding to watch crud like this. Oh well, at least I know it produces quality AMVs, not least of which is UnluckyArtist’s absurdist comedy video Screaming Artist. To be perfectly honest, there’s not a lot I can say about this that can’t be immediately gleaned from just watching the video, other than bravo to UnluckyArtist for actually managing to tell some sort of mini-story with this thing, and a funny one at that. This is the kind of solid stuff we’ve all come to know and love from one of the most consistently quality editors in the last many years, and while it’s not even his best work this year, it does well as one of the few really good comedy videos from 2016.

DerSchatten – Love and Loss

Anime: Ah! My Goddess (OVA) // Ah! My Goddess (Movie)
Music: Kate Winslet – “What If”

As I was watching this video to actually decide if I should write about it at all, I waffled about 6 or 7 times between wanting to put it on and wanting to write about something perhaps more deserving. But in the end there was something about this video that just works really well on a super basic, emotional level, despite the fact that scenes drag on for too long, cuts don’t happen anywhere near when they should, and the climax of the song is completely robbed of its impact with the chosen scene. No, this video will not win any awards. No, this video will not get much love from modern editors. Yes, there are plenty of actual old-school videos that do this exact kind of thing exponentially better. But for me, personally, watching AMVs is more than just finding the videos that do everything “the best” and then not bothering with the rest — flaws can be attractive, and in that sense Love and Loss has a super specific niche appeal that I can’t really explain or justify. All I know is that I’m fond of this video (although I wouldn’t push it past that), and I think that there’s something to be learned here, if not in specific techniques than in the general approach. Slow down, take a breather, and tell a story — the rest is superfluous.

msteapot – Faded

Anime: Harmony
Music: Alan Walker – “Faded”

msteapot has become a favorite editor of mine, someone whose work I always download no matter what sources she uses. Her videos are rarely anything too special, but she has put out a few that I constantly find myself returning to, and her style tends to find itself hovering right in the sweet spot between too little sync and too much. Faded is a short video — under two minutes — but it packs a whole lot of emotion and story into that short time and doesn’t really get too caught up in the details. It’s a smooth video as well, and when the song bursts open at the chorus we’re treated to some really slick scene selection and visual motion and it all just glides together really, really well. Most good sub-two minute videos leave me wanting more, but I feel perfectly satiated with this one, like having a really good snack before an even better meal.

Elcalavero – Neerouatjar

Anime: Flowers of Evil
Music: Jocelyn Pook – “Masked Ball”

Elcalavero’s videos are perpetually weird; last year he took the fun, upbeat Space Dandy and made what stands as probably the most un-Space Dandy-like video on the Internet, and Neerouatjar shows what he’ll do with something that already has a gloomy tone to it. This is a dark video; I mean that both in terms of its heavy, choke-inducing atmosphere as well as its physical brightness. Part of me thinks that he did this in order to force the viewer to turn off the lights before watching, and if that was his goal it’s effective. This is a video that begs to be watched without distractions of any sort; it’s a self-contained universe of unsettling images and sounds, with all the threatening stuff seemingly just out of frame. It seems to tell a story, but at the risk of embarrassing myself I’ll leave the interpretation of the video to you, should you decide to watch it.

Like Elcalavero’s other work, this video does tend to feel aimless at points. His audio choice allows him to ignore having to do a whole lot of syncing, relying instead on building an aesthetic and letting the video flow through it. But, it works. This may wander a little too far into “artsy” territory for some people, but for me this video acts as one of the year’s better horror releases.

PieandBeer – The Chariot

Anime: Tekkonkinkreet
Music: Jose Gonzalez – “Step Out”

PieandBeer is probably my favorite current active editor, but this seemed to be a less stellar year for her in terms of output than 2015. The Chariot was her second video released this year, coming on the heels of the phenomenal Polaris, and I have to admit that when I watched this after it was released, I was really let down. I couldn’t quite explain why at the time, but on my first viewing this video just fell flat, failing to really grab me the way her work usually does. In fact, I shelved this video for the rest of this year, until just now when I decided to give it another shot and see if maybe it’s worth mentioning here.

While I still don’t think it demonstrates anything near what she’s capable of, The Chariot is certainly not the disappointment I thought it was at first — a big thing that I think threw me when I first watched it was my own expectations with this source. Tekkonkinkreet videos tend to wallow in hopelessness, and/or get psychological and convoluted. This is possibly the only Tekkonkinkreet video I’ve seen that doesn’t go that route, opting instead for a more optimistic approach. It’s close to being “happy” but not so much that it disrespects the source it’s working with; there’s a fine balance and PieandBeer strikes really close to the mark. If, like me, you were underwhelmed with this video when you first watched it, give it another shot — it ages nicely.

Copycat_Revolver – Vex

Anime: Escaflowne – The Movie
Music: Major Lazer – “Lean On”

Editing this smooth is sometimes all that’s needed to get me to overlook the lack of a cohesive story/concept, because I’m fairly certain this video doesn’t have one. But what it does have, it has in spades: great lyric sync, a really urgent atmosphere, and some pretty smooth internal sync — the last 40 seconds or so of this video are up there with some of Copycat’s best work. Although it lacks his usual tongue-in-cheek humor and knowing wink, it demonstrates again his ability to just do pure, straight editing and make something that stands above what most other editors could achieve using the same sources.

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2016 in retrospect: shelter

What is an anime music video? It seems like this is a question that answers itself, and especially on an AMV-centric blog such as this one, it may come across as a trite and poorly-designed question that I’m asking just to provoke a response, but I can honestly say that until I watched Shelter, it wasn’t something I had devoted much time to thinking about. For those unaware, “Shelter” is a song by Porter Robinson and Madeon, and this video is a professionally-done collaboration between Robinson, A-1 Pictures, and Crunchyroll — in other words, the animation for this video was done specifically for this video, and did not exist prior to its release.

As I was compiling my end-of-the-year list of AMVs, I found myself in the awkward position of having to confront Shelter and determine whether or not this should be taken into consideration for my list or not — a question I had been clear on when I first watched Shelter but became less clear-cut the more I thought about it. That, in short, is why Shelter is getting its own post in this year’s Retrospect series of posts — I simply don’t feel comfortable counting it amongst the other videos I’m going to be writing about starting tomorrow, and yet to ignore it completely would be absurd, especially given how incredibly popular this video became (almost literally overnight) and the discussion there is to be had regarding it.

I was originally going to go in a different direction with this post and develop an argumentative structure from which it would be possible to debate whether or not Shelter is, in fact, an “AMV”, but instead of wasting my time doing that I’m just going to say that no, I don’t think it is, and here’s why. In my experience with AMVs, one of their most important defining characteristics is the fact that they are “remixes” of a type; we as editors are (generally) not creating the music or the animation that we use to put these videos together. We’re using stuff that’s already in existence and making our own works out of them. Like it or not, this is the lifeblood of the hobby — if animation studios were the only ones making AMVs, we’d have exponentially fewer videos out there, and I’d argue that the concept of an “AMV” would be completely different from what it is now.

The fact that AMVs are a hobbyist endeavor is what gives them life, longevity, and sustains the concept at all. AMVs are — indeed, always has been — defined as an amateur artform, if you will, something that is not being manufactured by the animation studios and/or recording artists. Shelter is a one-off exception, something that (to my knowledge) hasn’t been done before, at least not with Western music — the music artist had creative control over both the music and the animation. He obviously didn’t do the animation, but this is Robinson’s story, made specifically for this song. This is largely being billed as a “short film” rather than an “AMV”, which I think is indicative of the powers that be either (a) wanting to distance themselves from the legally-grey area that is AMV culture, or (b) being ignorant that such a culture even exists. I doubt the second point, not because AMVs are so ubiquitous that everyone knows about them (look, no matter how much you think AMVs are a global phenomenon, this is still very much a geeky niche hobby), but because it’s probably the job of the animation studios and music labels to know about this kind of stuff; (a) seems much more plausible to me, if either is correct at all.

shelter-1

What it’s being touted as by those in control of the video’s distribution matters very little, however; when it comes down to it, Shelter is a professionally-produced piece that removes all traces of remix culture in pursuit of something completely original in its creative process, and I think that’s all that needs to happen in order for it to not be considered an AMV. This is what I would consider a “short film” or “short story”, along the lines of Makoto Shinkai’s She and Her Cat, or even Voices of a Distant Star.

For those of you out there reading this who may feel strongly that yes, this is an AMV, let me ask you something else: Do you consider anime opening/ending sequences to be AMVs? Because if not there would appear to be a logical inconsistency in your thinking; if you do consider those things to be AMVs as well, then we can talk, but you would need to reconcile that first otherwise. I will also bring up both DAICON IV and On Your Mark, two videos that were produced with completely original animation by GAINAX and Studio Ghibli, respectively, and set to pre-existing music to create kind-of music videos. Any such discussion along these lines should certainly acknowledge both videos, as they represent professional creators entering the AMV arena style-wise; however, I think both these videos still retain some of that remix culture philosophy, both using someone else’s music (in the case of DAICON IV, at least, without ELO’s permission!) that was not created specifically for the anime. Whether or not this qualifies them as definite AMVs is certainly up for debate, although I personally would be much more willing to put them in the AMV camp than I would Shelter.

I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but as much as I liked quite a few videos this year, no single one has made me think about things the way Shelter has — nobody ever asks “What is an anime music video?” because it seems like such a silly non-question, but Shelter challenged a bunch of my pre-conceived notions that I didn’t even know were eligible to be challenged in the first place.

So, that said, I will add that I like Shelter, regardless of how one chooses to define it. It’s a fine video, with an interesting and emotionally-engaging story. For its relatively short length, it packs a lot in, and I think it does what it does really well — it’s pretty, it contains its own world that’s about as fully-realized as something can be in the space of six minutes, and even manages to do a little characterization, however shallow it might be.

To be fair, I don’t think this is anything really phenomenal, no matter what angle I approach it from. As a short story, there are better ones out there, one of the best being Shinkai’s Voices of a Distant Star which I mentioned earlier. As a music video, it shows the same flaws many professionally-done music videos do when they try to tell a story — forget completely about good editing, and how important that can be in heightening every element of a video’s impact on the viewer. Shelter does have a couple good examples of paying attention to the song and editing accordingly, but they’re very few and far between, it mostly being hard cuts that don’t match up with the music at all. It’s off-kilter more often than not, unfortunately, and it was a difficult video to follow rhythmically, but someone less accustomed to typical AMVs may find that less bothersome than I did.

shelter-2
It’s also worth mentioning that Shelter could also be problematic when trying to account for where it fits into the realm of typical anime; Zergneedsfood’s review on MAL (surprisingly, the highest-voted one currently), in which he rates Shelter 1/10, touches on many points that shouldn’t be overlooked. Some of this is my own extrapolation, but whether intentionally or not, this kind of stuff lowers expectations on anime consumers’ side by packing more and more into shorter and shorter works, until we anime viewers will begin to expect this as the norm. As a result, stories will be come simpler and dumber, characters will flatten out more than they are already, and all means of shortcuts will be used to get viewers to feel as much as they can with as little effort as possible on the side of the storytellers.

One of those shortcuts, he argues, is that of using a cute girl as the primary vehicle for emotional response. If this were a girl that were not “attractive” in the anime sense, or if it was a guy, or if it was a 40 year-old woman or man, would this video have been as popular as it was? I don’t think so, not by a long shot — I like to think it wouldn’t have affected my opinion of the video, but who knows? This is a trend that’s been in anime for a long time, so it’s nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it should be praised as the best way to do things. On that note, I think Zergneedsfood is absolutely correct.

One other interesting aspect of this video (that probably directly relates to what I summarized in the two paragraphs above) is the viewer responses that have cropped up; YouTube comments are always a minefield, so I have to thank my friend seasons for showing this to me because I never would have bothered to seek it out myself, by just look at some of the comments that are plaguing this video (beware: you will cringe hard). I think a lot of that can be attributed to a lack of a filter and simply being emotionally reactive more than anything, but my goodness, you’d think this video can cure cancer or something. Maybe it’s just me, maybe this is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in video form or something and I’m just missing it, but I think Shelter brought out a lot of latent hyperbole and I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing.

Still, it’s something that you should watch if you haven’t yet — regardless of the massive amount of discussion to be had surrounding it, this video caused waves that I hadn’t anticipated and was a kind of beacon that helped to define 2016, at least in terms of anime-related things. Maybe we’ll start seeing more works like this; if so, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it, but Shelter at least is an interesting project that could become either an example for other short films (along with all the baggage that entails) or something that is completely forgotten about by this time next year. At least it distracted us from politics for a while.

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2016 in retrospect: anime

anime-header

My anime-watching declined somewhat this year; the new routines that come with being married compiled with a flurry of new things and projects to distract me meant that anime got shoved to the side somewhat, but I still managed to get through over 20 series/OVAs throughout the year. This is paltry compared to most serious anime fans, I know, but it’s something.

None of the anime I watched this year were from…this year, they were all established series that I hadn’t seen before. So while other people across the Internet are giving their year-end evaluations of the many anime from 2016, I’ll just sit in my corner here and talk about stuff most of you probably already know about. With any luck though, maybe I can convince you to watch some of the better things on this list if you haven’t already — or stop you from wasting your time on some of the less good stuff on here. Anyway, here we go!

1. Kaiba
2. Now and Then, Here and There
3. Touch*
4. Death Billiards/Parade
5. Uchouten Kazoku
6. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku
7. Little Witch Academia: Mahoujikake no Parade
8. Humanity Has Declined
9. Shinsekai yori
10. One-Week Friends.
11. Natsume Yuujinchou
12. Little Witch Academia
13. Natsuyuki Rendezvous
14. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. OVA
15. Tsuritama
16. Zankyou no Terror
17. Tokyo Marble Chocolate
18. So Ra No Wo To
19. Katanagatari
20. Kawai Complex
21. Noein: To Your Other Self

 It should be no surprise for anyone who’s talked to me this past year, or who has kept up with this blog, that Kaiba was the best thing I watched in 2016. I wrote a lengthy review on it earlier in the year, in case you missed it, but it’s worth repeating now that this is a stunningly good, weird, and thought-provoking series that every self-described anime fan owes it to themselves to view. You are missing out on something incredibly special if you let this one go; for myself, Kaiba has certainly become one of my all-time favorite series, and I doubt I’ll ever find anything quite like it.

• Now and Then, Here and There…where to start with this one. I probably should have written a proper review when I first watched it, but this is another anime to put on your shortlist if you haven’t ever seen it. Just be aware, it starts off in horrible brutality, and doesn’t really let up. It depicts torture, rape, and terrible violence throughout its 13-episode run, although never in a tasteless way. This anime’s world is an awful place, characterized by human suffering, but it still tells a poignant story worth hearing. It explores the depths of human depravity while simultaneously acknowledging that nobody is beyond salvation. It’s an old anime at this point (originally released in 1999), and rarely talked about anymore, but if there’s any series that doesn’t deserve to be lost to the annals of the medium’s history, it’s this one.

• Touch is on here, but only kinda. I started watching this in like June of this year, and so far am only halfway through it (it’s over 100 episodes long, and I watch maybe three episodes a week, if I’m lucky). I decided to put it on here because, even though I’m not through with it yet, it’s on track to be another one of my all-time favorite series. It’s a slice of life series from the ’80s that focuses around baseball, but man is it good. Deep characters, fascinating plots that intertwine in unexpected ways, and an epic overarching story that simply does not get boring. I’m looking forward to watching the second half; you can definitely expect a full-fledged review when I finish, and I’m fairly certain it will be sitting at or near the top of next year’s list as well.

• Uchouten Kazoku reminded me a lot of Kamichu!, which if you recall was my favorite anime that I watched last year…not in the sense that the stories were anything alike (they aren’t, at all), but in the sense that it had a certain feeling to it that I craved whenever I wasn’t watching it. Take that away and the anime itself is really only okay; it doesn’t do anything that can’t be found elsewhere, but to me the anime had something that I couldn’t get enough of, and I don’t know if I can really describe.

 One of the more surprising and entertaining things I watched this year was Humanity Has Declined, an offbeat post-apocalyptic story brimming with colors and life and bizarre humor; it had a little bit of everything and was simply overflowing with creative energy. It follows an unnamed girl who acts as arbiter between the declining human race and a race of tiny fairies, who are becoming the dominant species on the Earth. “Quirky” is such an overused adjective for things like this but I can’t really think of a better descriptor; it’s absolutely an anime worth your time if you want something different and fun. And man, I can’t wait to make an AMV with this.

• Shinsekai Yori — one of the most inconsistent and frustrating animes I watched this year, and yet I’m so glad I stuck around because it was a wild ride that paid off in the end. Another post-apocalyptic setting, although this time much darker than the anime I mentioned above, it follows a group of friends, who all have psychokinetic abilities, as they age and learn more about the world they live in. A super-generic description is necessary here because it’s really hard to go into any more detail without spoiling things, but this is a gripping story, with a twist every other episode. It is impossible to tell where this anime will end up at any given point, but it’s worth sticking around to the end. It has lots of animation inconsistencies, and at times the storytelling gets really convoluted, but the world it creates is so rich and sinister and alive that you forget about those things. This is, by and large, really good stuff.

• One-Week Friends is basically ef: A Tale of Memories with less melodrama and with a more generic art style. I enjoyed it though; it was predictable, and it made me feel good, and it scratched a specific itch I was feeling at the time, so its sins of being derivative are at least half-forgiven.

 I only watched the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou, but I liked it a lot — people always use terms like “laid-back” to describe it, and while I get that, I feel like there was quite a bit more drama and despondency than such descriptors might let on. I need to watch more of this series, especially as they just keep making more and more seasons, but I don’t feel bad not downing this one all at once. Series like this, I feel, deserve to be savored and taken in slowly, so I may stretch this out a while as I go further into the series. I’m looking forward to it, though!

• Tsuritama was a pretty ridiculous anime involving fishing, aliens, and the meaning of friendship, and while I enjoyed it perfectly well as I was watching it, when all was said and done I realized that this is the exact same type of story arc that you see in 90% of popular media, just told in a weirder way. You can pinpoint almost to the minute when certain things will happen (like the protagonist seeming to turn his back on his friends in order to save them!), and in the end I felt slightly emotionally manipulated with how everything played out. It’s a fun story, with a really neat animation style, but trust me when I say you’ve seen this kind of thing a million times. Just watch PieandBeer’s video Something Fishy instead.

 I was really confused with how I felt when I was watching Zankyou no Terror; it’s a stupid anime, to be sure, with lots of really dumb archetypes (the cop who’s been shoved into semi-retirement in the precinct’s archive department comes back to the force to solve a high-profile terrorism case! He’s the only one that can Save The Day!), a lot of forced relationships, and a (couple) derivative revenge stories at its center, BUT it also has a weird way of making you want to keep watching. The thought process during each episode is pretty much, “This is stupid, this is idiotic, why am I– OH CRAP WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT??” I hated that I got so into it, and I would not recommend this to most people. However, if you can get over the tropes, maybe you’ll eke some enjoyment out of it.

• Katanagatari: A shounen anime that no one asked for. I know I’m going to be in the minority here but I (mostly) disliked this, a lot — it’s a story that takes place in feudal Japan and follows a girl trying to collect a bunch of legendary swords, who recruits a legendary fighter who only uses his hands and feet to fight, and never wields a sword himself. Honestly, this doesn’t sound too bad, until you watch it and realize that (a) every episode is 50 minutes long, (b) approximately 45 of those minutes per episode is just lots and lots and lots and lots of talking, and not even interesting talking, like, boring, meaningless talking that doesn’t contribute to character development in any way, and (c) every episode plays out very similarly. I found this anime to be a slog to get through, and I quickly found myself dreading having to watch the next episode. It has neat animation, and I love the setting, but man it’s just super boring and brought me back to some of the worst stretches of Dragon Ball Z that I watched as a kid. Don’t believe the hype on this one, although I can recommend UnluckyArtist’s video Yin-Yang Destiny as a satisfying alternative.

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